Wealth Disparity

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Wealth Disparity

Postby Tailsteak » Wed Dec 25, 2013 5:23 pm

Is wealth disparity inherently a bad thing? Yes, poverty is bad, obviously, but if the poorest people in a society had sufficient food, housing, safety, and opportunity - either through socialized programs or through a higher minimum standard of living - would it still be a bad thing if the rich people were getting farther and farther away from them financially?

Phrased another way....

Let's say that a society is made up of ten people, all of whom make a fixed amount per hour. Which of these distributions is best, which is worst, and why?

1 1 1 5 5 15 23 50 100 1000

1 20 20 20 20 20 20 25 26 70

10 10 10 10 14 16 20 24 30 30

The top distribution, obviously, has the highest total wages and the highest disparity, but also has 30% of its population making only a dollar an hour - not a livable wage by any stretch of the imagination. The bottom distribution is almost completely homogenized, with most people making a fair living wage, but the richest people really aren't that rich. The middle distribution has a nice stable middle class, one that presumably is difficult to escape, but it does have that permanent 10% underclass... not as bad as the top distribution, but still pretty bad.

Perhaps answering the "which is most moral" question would be better phrased this way... if you were about to be transplanted into one of those three societies - with a random roll determining which of the ten incomes you'd receive - which society would you choose?
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby RyukaTana » Wed Dec 25, 2013 7:05 pm

Absolutely wealth disparity is an issue. Who exactly is to say that any job, necessary or frivolous, is any more or less valuable than any other? I need to eat to live, and as such, I need someone to grow, hunt, produce, prepare, and so on with my food. That someone could be me, but we are a community, the idea is to grow greater through the achievements of the whole.

In turn, my life has little value without happiness. I'd rather starve than be without music and writing and various forms of merrymaking. Obviously, I can't enjoy such things if I do starve, but for me then, it's all or nothing. Either I live and enjoy, or fuck living at all.

Every job has its place, every person who contributes deserves to be happy and healthy in equal with all others. That people need to feel they are being disproportionately rewarded to do certain jobs is absolutely idiotic. Of course, we teach people that there is only one type of life that's worthwhile, one with a single spouse and a family and a job (whether you enjoy that job or not). The very idea that we will 'not have enough jobs' if humans have made machines to do the work, is a mindfuck to me. That we couldn't simply live our lives, and choose to help one another and choose to regulate ourselves and choose to maintain our minds and bodies is fucking baffling to me.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby crayzz » Wed Dec 25, 2013 8:40 pm

Tailsteak wrote:Yes, poverty is bad, obviously, but if the poorest people in a society had sufficient food, housing, safety, and opportunity - either through socialized programs or through a higher minimum standard of living - would it still be a bad thing if the rich people were getting farther and farther away from them financially?


Wait, you're defining away the very problem of wealth disparity and then asking of there's still a problem? I mean, what if I got shot, but wasn't really injured. Would I still be injured?

If we were to start at a point where the poor had adequate living standards, but allowed the possibility of regression into poor living standards, then I would argue that income disparity would be a problem. If nothing else, it heavily privileges a small few, and allows the possibility of a pseudo-oligarchy that isn't as easily bound by the checks and balance we place in our systems (political, economical, whatever) to stop abuse. Such abuse can easily lead (indeed, it has easily lead) to a worse situation for those not part of that few. I don't have an actual solution, I'm just noting what I see as a potential problem.

As to your actual question, I pick door number 3. I never saw the use in being obscenely rich. Even if I ended up within the top bracket of the first distribution, I'd end up giving most of it up anyway.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby MysticWav » Thu Dec 26, 2013 1:37 pm

Wealth Disparity itself isn't the problem. If you can magically engineer a system where person A has infinite wealth earned or unearned, and persons B-J have wealth adequate to their needs and efforts, that's not a problem. But we don't live in such a state currently. There are a finite number of dollars within a given system, and for person A to have more dollars, person's B-J must have less dollars. Right-wing economists like to pretend it isn't a zero-sum game, but it is. There are only so many dollars, only so many parcels of land, etc. etc. Now if person A were to spend his dollars on services and true consumption, commission poems, get massages, pay people to form a giant human pyramid on their back lawn at 5:00 PM every day, well whatever. I guess it would all flow back around eventually. But that's not how most people act after a certain point. Their money goes into the hard limited quantity items (land, minerals, etc.), and into items that make them even /more/ money (stocks, bonds, etc.). The latter looks like consumption in the short term, but it pulls back more than it puts in and thus is a net drain. Eventually enough dollars congeal on one side of the scale that people have to stop consumption which creates a ripple effect where in the end there is only the limited consumption by the wealthy until a very slow distribution or revolution occurs.

TL;DR - Wealth disparity is not bad so long as resources are infinite or wealth is transient. Neither is the case at this time in our world (maybe we'll get there for a time if we develop extremely fast and cheap space travel).
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby Merle » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:07 pm

The real problem is that we have no upper limits on wealth concentration, but money doesn't work well when it's stagnant - it's like water on a wheel, in that the economy works best when money flows freely and the wheel spins at a steady pace.

Aside from that, what's really important is making sure that there's a minimum limit on wealth - nobody should suffer in poverty, in any sort of reasonable society. Any civilization where children go to bed hungry or someone can't keep their apartment because they can't afford the gas to keep a job has some serious issues to work out.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby Tailsteak » Thu Dec 26, 2013 3:12 pm

So should there be a maximum limit on wealth?
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby Merle » Thu Dec 26, 2013 4:13 pm

Now that is a heck of a tricky question.
I don't think that there should be an absolute ceiling on wealth...but it makes sense to me that the more money you have, the harder you should have to work to keep that level of money to counterbalance the natural tendency of money to breed more money. Whether through taxes or some other method, I don't know, but if you really want to have more resources at your disposal than 80% or 90% or 99% of the rest of the population put together, you should have to work to maintain it.

Nobody should have difficulty providing the absolute minimum - a place to sleep out of the rain, provide for clothing and hygiene, and sufficient food - which is one reason I'm in favor of "Basic Income" as a general concept. But the more you want to have, the harder the system should work against you; it should never be impossible, but a higher and higher level of challenge.

There's also the mere fact that the system itself needs funds to function, and those with the most money are best able to foot that bill without cutting into their own lifestyles.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby RyukaTana » Thu Dec 26, 2013 5:35 pm

Tailsteak wrote:So should there be a maximum limit on wealth?


Fuck yes, absolutely. As an ideal, there's just no need for that sort of wealth. No one needs it, no one honestly benefits from it past a certain point. At some point, that much luxury really isn't good for people. However, I think everyone should live comfortably and happily, and I think we're FAR FAR FAR more capable of providing that than we want to pretend is true as a society. We put limitations on what people can have because they can't pay for things, not necessarily because there's any difficulty in providing them (piracy, for example, and the reason why piracy is not theft no matter how you want to spin it or whether you agree with its morality or not).

In practicality, as Merle said, stagnant money is bad. It hurts people, it hurts the economy, and fuck anyone who thinks they need that kind of money, or that it's remotely possible for any person (or even group) to be that much more 'valuable' than the rest of society. Personally, I think that sort of bullshit is a capital offense. Every poor person who starves or suffers does so by the hands of that sort of greed, and as far as I'm concerned, that makes them liable for that suffering. I have exactly zero remorse for wishing painful death to at least the people most adamantly maintaining and supporting the system (I can accept the concept of taking advantage of the system while it exists, if people are going to screw each other over anyway, better to be on top than on the bottom).
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby crayzz » Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:55 pm

So should there be a maximum limit on wealth?

I'd prefer something like a logarithmic relationship. There'd be no hard limit, but making more money would get harder and harder.
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Re: Wealth Disparity

Postby MysticWav » Fri Dec 27, 2013 1:26 pm

I may have mentioned this in other threads, but we don't need a cap on wealth just a cap on unconsumed wealth. After you've acquired enough to comfortably provide for yourself for the remainder of your years, you should be compelled to enter "spend" mode with any additional wealth you accrue. Money is just a bunch of IOU notes. Don't collect them just for the sake of having a highscore because that leaves a lot of people with nothing to do.
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